Natural disasters like earthquakes can happen at any time. However, thanks to modern technology, people can now predict with improved accuracy when this kind of calamity will strike. This knowledge, in turn, can help with earthquake preparedness to reduce the risk of injury, loss of life, and damage to property.
Speaking of preparedness, schools are among the establishments that should have a sound response plan in place. This is not just because there are many lives at stake; it’s also because schools are often used as emergency shelters for surrounding communities. As such, administrators should develop a school earthquake preparedness plan and cascade it to all the stakeholders. This way, everyone will know what to do before, during, and after an earthquake.
Earthquake Plan Checklist for all Schools
Here are a few pointers to remember when developing such a plan:
☐ Create an Earthquake Response Team
It’s important for a school to have a dedicated response team to ensure the proper implementation of the preparedness plan. Establish one that’s specifically for earthquake response, although you can “reuse” the same response team for other disasters and simply assign a different incident commander.
The incident commander is in charge of the whole team, directing and appointing people who will take care of other important tasks. Aside from an incident commander, there should also be a supervisor for each response group. These groups include medical, security, evacuation or assembly, utility, and search and rescue. You may also want to consider having one for family reunification. Each leader should then help select and train their team members.
☐ Prepare School Facilities to be Earthquake-Resistant
There are many ways that you can prepare school buildings to be more resilient against earthquakes. Most modern structures, in fact, may already have built-in protections in place. Review your locale’s building codes and address vulnerabilities as soon as possible. This is doubly important for areas that are more prone to earthquakes.
Aside from the structure itself, you should also pay attention to various architectural elements. These include shelves, audio-visual equipment such as computers and projectors, light fixtures, lockers, and even suspended ceilings. The school should also consider the stability of partitions, as well as the stability of window frames.
☐ Educate the Students and Personnel About Your Earthquake Preparedness Plan
Your school earthquake preparedness plan will be for nothing if you don’t educate the teachers, non-teaching staff, students, and parents. They should know what to do during an earthquake, especially the more able-bodied staff who can guide younger students and elderly personnel. Some of the most critical details that should be shared include “drop, cover, and hold on,” evacuation points, and evacuations plans in general. Make sure to conduct regular earthquake drills to give everyone a chance to practice what they learned. Moreover, earthquake drills can help condition people into reacting properly once the disaster does strike.
☐ Educate the Community on Earthquake Preparation
Aside from the school’s stakeholders, you should also endeavor to educate the community to build disaster resilience. Strike a partnership with organizations and local authorities to make sure that everyone is well-informed about what to do during an earthquake. The more informed the community is, the lesser the risks and the less severe the effects of the earthquake would be.
☐ Prepare or Purchase an Earthquake Kit
Depending on the intensity and magnitude of the earthquake, there may be instances when the school’s occupants will not be able to leave the building immediately. In fact, there may be times when it would be more beneficial if everyone stayed put. That’s why it’s a good idea to have a school earthquake kit. The supplies should last for about two to three days, and should include food, water, first aid kits, and blankets. You may also want to put a couple of power banks and charging cords, as well as emergency multi-tools and flashlights or portable lanterns.
☐ Learn First Aid and Fire Response
Learning first aid is an important component of earthquake preparedness. It’s ideal that everyone, not just your assigned medical group, learns the basics. This is because you might end up dealing with a large number of people with a variety of injuries. Knowing first-aid can help reduce the number of casualties and also ease the burden of medical personnel once they arrive.
Specifically for your medical group, make sure that they have not just first-aid but also triage training. This will help them manage a large number of patients and prioritize treatment during large-scale disasters. Meanwhile, for your utility team, basic fire response should be a priority. They should also know where the utility meters and mains are located to help prevent further damage and injury.
As the saying goes, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Indeed, when people’s lives are involved, you can’t be too prepared. In settings such as schools, it’s even more important to have a solid plan in place because there are children involved. Remember these tips to make sure you have a comprehensive school earthquake preparedness plan.
For more info on earthquake safety preparedness plans for schools of all types check out FEMA’s earthquake preparedness plan.